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Honda restructures U.S. operations [Detroit Free Press :: ]
[March 10, 2014]

Honda restructures U.S. operations [Detroit Free Press :: ]

(Detroit Free Press (MI) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 10--American Honda is restructuring its U.S. operations, splitting Honda and Acura into separate divisions for marketing and sales purposes and assigning top executives to lead each brand.

The Japanese automaker said the moves, which take effect April 1, would cultivate a clearer distinction between Honda and Acura, allowing both brands to thrive.

John Mendel will retain responsibility for the overall American sales operations with the new title of executive vice president of the automobile sales division.

"The goal is to accelerate the already strong sales growth of both the Honda and Acura brands through a more cohesive strategy that we think will bring even greater focus to the unique needs of our Honda and Acura customers," Mendel said in a conference call.

Mike Accavitti, who currently leads national marketing for Honda and Acura, will become senior vice president and general manager of the Acura division.

Jeff Conrad, who is currently vice president and general manager of Acura sales, will become senior vice president and general manager of the Honda division.

Mendel said that under the previous structure, "different strategies can pop out" from a national and regional perspective -- "try as we might" to avoid it.

The moves also come as the automaker is hoping to more clearly define Acura's role in the marketplace. Many analysts view the brand as occupying a space between mainstream and luxury.

"We see Acura as being every bit of a luxury brand as the Germans or the other Japanese or the domestics to be honest," Accavitti said. "What you're going to see as we move forward is a strengthening of that brand position. It's going to be luxury done in a different way." The company also announced that Honda R&D President Erik Berkman would become executive vice president of Honda North America with responsibility for the new Acura Business Planning Office, which will devise business and product strategies.

The moves come as the company is poised to start selling a redesigned Honda Fit subcompact in the spring and an all-new Acura TLX performance sedan by mid-year.

Honda sales fell 6% through February with a bitter winter hurting overall industry sales, while Acura sales rose 7%. Honda was up 9% in 2013, while Acura was up 1% from 2012.

Contact Nathan Bomey: 313-223-4743 or Follow him on Twitter @NathanBomey.

___ (c)2014 the Detroit Free Press Visit the Detroit Free Press at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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